Book Summary: Strategy and the Fat Smoker

business strategyThe title of David Maister’s latest book doesn’t give many clues to it’s central theme, but it is catchy.

Maister suggests a focus first on what to change, and then on how to change. Maister points out that real change requires a permanent shift in organizational habits – analogous to the permanent change in eating habits required to lose weight and keep it off. In order to succeed at such change, you (the organization) must be fully and completely committed. So you better be sure you want it!

There are three central questions asked:

“Which diet, if integrated into our normal running of the firm, would actually get us to perform at a higher level, enough to achieve the benefits we seek?

“Which would we be prepared to adopt as a natural part of our regular lifestyle? 

“If we don’t like any of these diets can anyone think of another that will have as much force as these, but that we could live with more easily?”

He concludes by offering six suggestions for building the commitment that permanent change requires:

  1. Give it time – permanent change is hard and takes a long time.
  2. Change the scorecard and rewards system.
  3. Management must change how they act, how they are measured and how they are paid, or the rest of the organization will not change.
  4. Focus on principle more than on tactics.
  5. People must choose to get with the program or not – you can’t force people to be committed to the change.
  6. But if they choose not to get with the program, you need toget them out quickly. This is especially true at the top – if a member of the top team is not committed, that person needs to go.


Book Summary: Strategy and the Fat Smoker